The Attitude in Which We Pray Our Father
We do not pray in order to improve our talents, to develop more clearly an intellectual synthesis, or widen our culture, religious or otherwise. We pray in order to tell God once again that we love him and know that he loves us, and to relate ourselves to the plan of mercy that is his.
We run still greater risks in the realm of sensibility, and in believing that our prayer has value only when we have "felt" something. The modern world takes special interest in "experiences," descriptions, states of the soul; there is a kind of cult for everything that can yield some kind of "interior witness." We delight in working out a projection of ourselves that arises from the senses.
Prayer is an extremely favorable opportunity for realizing such a projection. But this will always be the great difference between Christian and non-Christian prayer: the former does not contain its own end. A person does not pray primarily in order to find himself, but to give himself, to enter into a plan of salvation that goes beyond himself. In Christian prayer, what matters above all is not the quality of the interior experience, which can sometimes be very shallow, but the Person who is the "object" of this experience. Saint Paul speaks of "groanings" (Rom 8:26) or of a "cry" (Gal 4:6). What is important is not our experience but the gift we make of ourselves. We should enter into prayer, not to receive, but to give, to give ourselves and lose ourselves. And if friendship with God is to remain pre-eminent in our prayer, we must enter into prayer in order to give ourselves as a free gift, with the knowledge that we may not always really give what we are giving, and yet without being concerned about what we are giving.
Father Bernard Bro, o.p.